Westford Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – September 2023


Where Are All the Birds?

Where are all the birds? Many people have mentioned that their feeders seem bereft of birds. Our feeders, too, are attracting very few takers this fall. This is a pattern we see every year. At this time of year, there is a great deal of natural food available to the birds: nuts, berries and insects all abound. New babies of the year have fledged and are now proficient at finding their own food. The relatively warm days and lack of snow cover mean that the birds don’t need us.

Many of “our” summer birds have left on migration. We no longer hear catbirds in the shrubs or see colorful warblers or phoebes hawking insects from the air. Hummingbirds, which have been a daily staple at the sugar-water feeder, have put on sufficient weight to enable their long flight south and across the Gulf of Mexico to Central and South America. The last time we saw hummingbirds in our yard was September 11.

And September is the month in which, looking up, we see hawks circling high above, and streaming south.  Even some of our resident birds migrate for short distances. Our summer robins and bluebirds may move south to warmer coastal states, and Canadian robins and bluebirds may take their winter vacations in our area. All species of blackbirds form huge winter flocks and fly south to Maryland, Virginia and points south. A friend who lives in Florida, recently reported to me that the grackles has just arrived at her feeder. She wasn’t thrilled because they eat her little anole lizards.

When all these shifting winter territories sort themselves out, and when cold weather sets in here in Massachusetts, resident birds once again may need the help of supplemental feeding to get through the long cold nights of late fall and winter, and will once again delight us by visiting our feeders.

To get an idea of the huge numbers of birds streaming south this month and next, look at the live video on BirdCast.info.


Many thanks to flora and fauna reporters for the month of September. Please send reports by October 31 to appear in next month’s article. You can send your reports to mariancharman@gmail.com.


September Reports:

Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. September 4, 80’s, sunny. Hummingbirds are at the feeder. September 9, hot, humid. Hummingbirds are visiting the blossoms on our lilac which is blooming again!. Sept. 11, humid, rainy. Hairy woodpecker, blue jays, chickadee, goldfinches, hummingbird at feeders [last time we saw them]. On Rt. 110, mockingbirds seen. Sept. 19, 60-70 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze, beautiful. A walk on the beaver dam trail: white wood asters blooming, coral fungus everywhere, fall colors starting to show in the wetlands, baby toad on the trail, sulphur butterfly, green frogs jump into small ponds at my approach. Also seen white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, Carolina wren, chickadee. The migrants seem to have left.

A Haiku written after this walk:

Like a yellow leaf

Sulphur butterfly rises

Through the dark pine trunks


September 23, 50-60, overcast. A walk on the road: six crows, blue jays, chickadees, raven called overhead. September 26, 60’s, breezy. Sun finally after many days of rain. Little red dragonflies in the yard.


Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. September Report: Small spotted turtle in front of  my house, next to rock wall. Neighbor has also seen them, and had a garter snake in her pond.  Also in my yard, mole or vole, five turkeys this morning,  goldenrods and Virginia creeper.

            Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization whose purpose is the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers. Check out the Trust’s web page at westfordconservationtrust.org, and visit us on Facebook.